Tag Archives: Lazarus

Lazarus: David Bowie. In Death We Become Alive

This is part two of our David Bowie feature.

The Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus was written, like all the Gospels were, through the prism of the human experience of Jesus risen from the dead. After Jesus’ death those who were close to him during his earthly life experienced him as alive to them in a powerful and deeply intimate way. Free from the limits of physicality, Jesus exploded into their hearts – that place of pure experience at the centre of us where we and divinity are one, communing in spirit. The Gospels were written after this experience and during it.

What the story of Lazarus tells us is that death has no hold on life; that life is of such a force and nature that nothing can contain it. Life is of the spirit and life embodies (enlivens) all physicality. Death is a material reality, not ultimate Reality.

“Look up here, I’m in heaven.” The Lazarus that is David Bowie is now no longer limited by the physical. The scars of a human life and the drama of ‘below’ that were his have now been transcended. In this transcending, this going beyond, Bowie bursts into the fullness of life, a life that is in everything and everyone.

In the Gospel story eternal life courses into the dead Lazarus revealing to us that we will emerge into eternal life after death. This eternal life can be experienced here and now as it heals and transforms our human lives.

“I’ve got nothing left to lose…Dropped my cell phone down below.” As Bowie sings these words he floats between worlds. It seems that only his bed clothes are preventing him from floating away. Perhaps his experience of death is shedding him of what is ultimately unimportant: such things as opinions and judgements, our fears and anxieties, notions of success and failure, pride and competition, and all those things in our personalities that would stop us from living in the fullness of life already given to us. The cell phone is dropped – attachment to temporal intrigues and involvements is gone.

He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. Thus the people who had come to mourn said, “Look how much he loved him!” But some of them said, “This is the man who caused the blind man to see! Couldn’t he have done something to keep Lazarus from dying?” Jesus, intensely moved again, came to the tomb. (Now it was a cave, and a stone was placed across it.) Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, replied, “Lord, by this time the body will have a bad smell, because he has been buried four days.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone. Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you that you have listened to me. I knew that you always listen to me, but I said this for the sake of the crowd standing around here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he shouted in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The one who had died came out, his feet and hands tied up with strips of cloth, and a cloth wrapped around his face. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.” (John 11:34-44)

Jesus was close to Lazarus, he loved him. We can see this as Jesus weeps and is “intensely moved”. In raising Lazarus Jesus shows us that our relationships also transcend death. The depth of closeness with someone experienced on earth can continue after their death. And not only this: the closeness can deepen. Those tensions of character and personality that may have come between us and our loved ones are no more. Our ego has nothing to rub against. All that is left is the truth of who our loved ones are. At our depths and in Truth this truth is free to commune with the truth of who we are. There is no fear in Truth.

During meditation we practice attention off the ego. As we deepen in this practice we encounter and live into the truth of who we are and the truth of life.

The gift of this song and video from David Bowie could be seen as a participation in the spiritual reality of communion at the heart of relationship. Bowie lives on not only in his music, but in the relationship that his music fosters between us and him and especially in the relationship he has with those who were closest to him. Just like those Bluebirds he is free, free to be in the freedom given to us all; free from fear and free to be.

The cupboard in this video is the tomb of the Lazarus story. But who is it that comes out of the cupboard at the beginning of this video; that reaches out from under the bed enabling Bowie to float; hiding under the desk, touching and empowering him in his final moments? His muse; an angel; an embodiment of the Divine; a variation on the Grim Reaper? And what is Bowie writing? Is creativity bursting from him in his final moments?

Later, as Bowie dances and sings in front of his ‘tomb cupboard’ we can see the bandages of Lazarus in the white lines on Bowie’s black clothing. The final scene seems to have Bowie doing a ‘Lazarus in reverse’. While the Gospel Lazarus comes back to earthly life from death, Bowie seems to reverse into death from earthly life. His entry into the ‘tomb cupboard’ is a reverse replay of a ‘tomb cupboard’ exiting. He exits and enters the tomb at the same time. Death and life, at least on this earthly plane, are a part of each other. And if we can embrace death, be unafraid of it, we discover in our hearts that death is the way to into life, both temporal and eternal. Christians call this ‘dying and rising in Christ’.


Meditatio House: What is Dead Shall Rise

Morning and evening meditation here at Meditatio House is combined with morning and evening prayer. Our morning and evening prayer is based on the Divine Office. The Divine Office is a way of praying which has its formal origins in the Rule of Benedict and roots in the prayer life of the Desert Mothers and Fathers. It is based on the psalms and also has regular scripture readings. One of my favourite readings from the Hebrew Testament is included in these scripture readings, a reading from Ezekiel:

The Lord God says this: I am going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from the graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil; and you will know that I, the Lord, have said and done this – it is the Lord God who speaks. (Ezek 37:12b-14).

A literal interpretation of this text has me remembering the zombie horror movies which I have seen over the years. Shaun of the Dead comes to mind or even the current TV series The Walking Dead. The text here, however, is not referring to the divine reanimation of corpses.

A question which comes to my mind when I read this is: where in life am I dead? That is, are there parts of my life and living that just seem impossible to engage with, to change, that I have given up on; so much so, that they are dead to me? Part of the appeal of zombies is that they are a kind of physical representation of our ‘dead bits’ and the ways in which we have given up on living. Too much giving up on life means becoming a kind of zombie, an automaton going through the motions, the living dead. This kind of death can eat up the life around and within us.

When I hear this reading from Ezekiel I am also reminded of the story in John’s Gospel of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. When Jesus eventually arrives at Lazarus’ home Lazarus is already dead, his body four days in a tomb. Jesus stands before the tomb and

…crie[s] in a loud voice ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with strips of material, and a cloth over his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free. (John 11:43b-44).

In Ezekiel it is God who raises us from our graves, in John it is the Son of God – Jesus, the one who lives a fully divinised human life, a human living his earthly life fully one with and in the love that is God. In his humanity he is divine; in his divinity he is human. What God can do, he can do. His faith in God is faith in himself.

In both texts the loving intentions of the divine are revealed through what the divine does: making what is dead live again. For the divine, death in all its forms still holds the seeds of life and transformation, of a rising to a new creative life. Death, whether physical or of the psyche, is not the end. All that is asked of us is a faith that can accept this – even just a little bit.

That the raising of Lazarus be literally true is not of primary importance. What is of more importance is the nature of our faith in the divine here and now. Can we accept that the divinity in us is of a different order to the death in us, that its life does not die with death?

Recently one of us in the house was given a Rose of Jericho, or a Resurrection Rose. This is a desert plant that, without water, curls up on itself and, for all intents and purposes, dies. When dry it gets blown along on the desert breeze until water is found. Water raises the plant from its sandy grave. It opens up, becoming green with life.

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The Rose of Jericho reminds me very much of what is dead in us, of what we have died to in life, given up on, and of what God wants to raise in us.

Does our faith in what the divine life can do now include the gentle raising of what is dead to us? Compassion can live again; the capacity to love, the ability to reach out and participate in life – all of this and more, like the Rose of Jericho, may be dead and it can come alive.

The God of Ezekiel declares that we can be lead back to the soil of Israel, that is, be resettled on our ‘own soil’. This soil is the richness, the fertility, of our being in union with God. Deep within us, beyond the limitations and maneuvering of self-consciousness, there is the reality of a divinity that can transform this self-consciousness and our human life. We can, with grace and faith, grow into a life that is more and more alive, growing in harmony with the divine within us. All that is needed from us is just a little faith and a little co-operation. God will do the rest.

Our meditation practice is one such little act of faith and co-operation. It is a little act that expands in us as we experience just what God can do with this little act. And what God can do, if we allow it, is mind-blowing.

Attention on the mantra allows the mind to soak in the living water of the divine within us. Slowly, imperceptibly, what is dead in our lives is rejuvenated by the life within us not dependent on us for life: divinity itself. The fruits of meditation that slowly and quietly grow in our lives also grow from those places within us we believed dead. Our living death is transformed into living and fruitful life. Believe it. The silence within us is a living water causing what is dead in us to become new life.

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